The following Valedictory Address was given by Herminio "Jet" Navia III, Valedictorian of West Essex Regional High School Class of 2012. Commencement was held on Sunday, June 17.
Good evening. As many of you already know, my name is Herminio Navia III, or Jet, and it is truly a great honor to be here as one of the voices of the Class of 2012 tonight. Before I continue, I would like to thank the Board of Education, Superintendent Longo, Principal Suda the administration, faculty, staff, parents, especially mine, families, friends and fellow students. You have all been such integral parts of our West Essex experience. I would also like to thank Coach Anthony Emering, who asked me to include him in my speech almost every single time he spoke to me.
Wow...I never thought we would make it here. Finally, the graduation of the most intelligent, most athletic, most talented, and, most importantly, most attractive senior class in West Essex history. I feel as if it has only been a month ago since I was that puny little freshman who, even with his glasses, could not find his locker. But now, look what I have become: a puny little senior...with contacts!
Still, over the past six years on campus, we, as a class, read several novels, learned to solve for x and studied American History, but, more importantly, we developed meaningful relationships and connected with our teachers and other adults more than we ever did in grade school. We also discovered the importance of being involved, both in school and in the community. These essential connections and discoveries, my fellow graduates, will be used beyond today.
With that said, it is clear that we still have a long way to go, and I would like to offer a few words of advice before we finally part ways and head in different directions. I am a firm believer in the notion that anything is possible. Of course, for certain people, some things are more possible than others. For example, while it did not take long for me to realize that I had musical talent, it also did not take too long to discover I was not exactly an Iron Chef (you do not want to taste my cooking). Although any given person may not truly be the most talented, intelligent or even athletic person out there, I believe there is something bright in every single one of you, and maybe you just have not discovered exactly what that is yet. But it can be anything, such as horseback riding, telling jokes or singing as Jasmine in "A Whole New World" (you know who you are, kind sir). Still, when you finally find it, you better hold onto to it dearly as it will be something that defines you.
And what better place is there, other than perhaps the military or the workforce, to explore yourself than in college? For the first time in our lives, we will be independent, free to do almost whatever we want. We may test the waters, figure out what works and what does not, as well as endure or enjoy the consequences. For the next few years, we will be able to figure out who we are and what we are capable of doing. Motivational speaker Leo Buscaglia once said, “The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing, and becomes nothing. He may avoid suffering and sorrow, but he simply cannot learn and feel and change and grow and love and live.” So, starting next year, fellow graduates, I urge you to stop living in between the lines. Take risks, but, at the same time, remember why you are there.
You are there for a reason, for no matter who you are, or what you are going to be, whether it is a professional, an employee at Hollister or even the next Morgan Freeman (a favorite of mine), just remember that the things you steadily work towards, whether a college degree or a career of any kind, are the things that stay with you forever. Because while money, material possessions and even relationships can be lost or broken, your experiences, education and knowledge will always be yours, never to be taken from you. Thank you.